In her last book, Talking of Justice: People's Rights in Modern India (2014) Justice Leila Seth, the first woman judge of the Delhi High Court, quotes another female judge, Justice Claire L’Heureux Dube’ of Canada: “Equality is simply not about equal treatment ... a mathematical equation waiting to be solved. It is about human dignity and a full membership in society.
It is about promoting an equal sense of self-worth.” Justice Seth, who passed away recently, was renowned for never seeking, but demanding respect for herself as an equal. A few paragraphs later in her book, she laments that “The sensitivity displayed by the Supreme Court of India in rape cases is often lacking in the judgments of the trial courts. This is a disturbing and disquieting fact.”
At a time when we are rocked by reports of gang rapes almost on a daily basis across the country, it might be time to contemplate Justice Seth’s remarks. And it might also be time to remember and honour some women who recently displayed those very attributes she quoted. Take the case of Arunachal Pradesh’s Anshu Jamsenpa, who became the first Indian woman to scale the Mount Everest for the fourth time. A mother of two, reached the Everest peak at 9 am Tuesday to unfurl the national flag. She now plans a double ascent to make it a total five successful climbs to the world’s highest peak, the last two within a week.
Then there’s the Indian Women’s Cricket team, which according to BCCI acting Hony Secretary Amitabh Choudhary, is “on a record-breaking spree in the Women’s Quadrangular Series” in South Africa. With four wins in four matches, team India is now the only unbeaten side in the tournament. These women, who battled not just extreme weather and extremely competitive rivals, but also the patriarchal Indian mindset still struggling to understand equality, are not asking for privileges or protection because they happen to be women. They are doing this because they know they are equals.